Waihōhonu Hut – Tongariro National Park

Most of our group met at Wellington railway station at 4.30pm on Friday, apart from Jo, Caeden, and Antonia who travelled separately. We shared the van with the Medium-Fit group. We met up with Jo and the others at Bulls and then at the top of Bruce Road at Whakapapa ski field, where we went up to the club’s lodge together. Brian and Jan were there to greet us and explained lodge procedures before we settled down for the night.

Saturday morning – start of the track

On Saturday we drove to Whakapapa Village to begin the walk to Waihōhonu Hut. Our walk began at 9am in fine weather but we anticipated some rain along the way. After less than an hour, Caeden and Antonia were unfortunately feeling a bit off, so it was agreed that Jo would return with them to their vehicle and drive back to Wellington.

Lower Tama Lake
Climbing to Upper Tama Lake
Upper Tama Lake

The remaining four continued to the Tama Lakes junction and then diverted to Upper Tama Lake where we enjoyed the vantage point. Toward Waihōhonu Hut, the clouds had the dramatic look of impending thunder, and it was definitely raining in the Kaimanawa Range in the distance. From the junction to Waihōhonu the track is flattish with minor undulations. We stopped for a quick lunch break in a sheltered spot.

On the Waihōhonu Track

Occasional thunder was heard from south of Waihōhonu Hut. The weather continued to be mostly fine, but we had light rain for the final ten minutes prior to arriving at Waihōhonu Hut; no need for jackets. By the time we’d explored the hut and found our bunks, the weather had turned fine again. The walk from Whakapapa Village to Waihōhonu Hut took us 6.5 hours including the side trip to Upper Tama Lake.

Waihōhonu Hut
Ngauruhoe sunrise

The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing around the hut and taking in the excellent view of Ngauruhoe. A 28-bunk hut on the Tongariro Northern Circuit Great Walk, Waihōhonu Hut was built in 2010 and is spacious and well designed. Gas cookers are provided during the Great Walks season, and a warden was present. Bookings are required during the season. The nearby campsite is a lovely sheltered spot set within the curve of a stream. Several campers were enjoying a dip when we visited the campsite.

Elizabeth and Rory at Waihōhonu Hut

On Sunday we left at 8.10am, keen to make a reasonably early start, so we hopefully wouldn’t be too late returning to Wellington. We took the turn off to Taranaki Falls, where we had our lunch stop, and then continued on the lower Taranaki Falls track back to Whakapapa Village, arriving at 1.15pm. The M-F group arrived a little later, having had a more relaxed start after their 12-hour day on Saturday, and a Tama Lakes side trip.

Refueling at National Park

The road South was closed at Makatote Viaduct after a crash, so an Ōhākune cafe missed out on a van-load of hungry trampers. We returned to a very hot and sunny National Park to refuel and ponder our options. Our new route was SH 47 and SH 46 to Rangipō (in heavy rain), and then south through Waiōuru. Some of the local forestry blocks had been badly damaged by Cyclone Gabrielle, with trees on one side of the road devastated but those on the other almost untouched. Back in Wellington at 8pm after a good tramp with better than expected weather.

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